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Why the 2nd Amendment Means What It Says

Second Amendment document

Tired of listening to gun-grabbers tell you that the Second Amendment only allows people in militias to keep and bear arms? Or that the Founders would have never intended the Second Amendment to apply to modern weapons? In this “Firewall” video, Bill Whittle recounts a remarkable conversation about the precise wording of the Second Amendment, and sums up why the document says what it means and means what it says.

 

 

What does “shall not be infringed” mean to you? Are recent state magazine-capacity limits infringements on the Second Amendment? Does the Gun Control Act of 1968 “infringe” on gun rights? How about the 1934 National Firearms Act? Let us hear your opinions in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (41)

  1. I told my wife if our right to own guns goes away there’s gonna be one hell of a firefight in the ole neighbor hood. Us boys in the mountains of East Tennessee don’t take kindly to folks who try to take our God and Guns, or our moonshine away. Our right to protect ourselves is given by God and not by some corrupt politicians in D.C. The Oath I took 6 times in the military still stands. Try me….thanks to my brother in arms…….

  2. The meanings of words from 200+ years ago are important, but so is the context in which they were written. The Founders didn’t pull their beliefs out of thin air or speculation. Their views were based on careful observation of the failures of other governments and countries and a desire to avoid repeating those failures. For example, the Establishment Clause of the first amendment was never meant to separate church and state, it was meant to prevent the establishment of a Church of the United States along the lines of the Church of England, where the government, and not God, would dictate what the beliefs of that parishioners would be.

    The Second Amendment was written to prevent a different point of failure, in this case the ability of the people to take back their government through use of force. The Founders had seen time and again how people can change any government no matter how well established and documented it is, and when this happens it does no good to have a government-controlled defense structure as that structure will usually side with the government that controls it. So it is vital for the citizens to be able to raise their own military if the needs arises, which is what The Founders meant by militias.There would be no point for The Founders to create Federal militias as they had already created an Army and Navy for defense.

    What’s also important contextually is the sequencing of the amendment. The amendments were added in the order they were approved. The earlier they were approved indicates their importance to The Founders and the amount of support they had amongst The Founders. That the Second Amendment was voted on and accepted second shows that this was an issue of great importance to them and that there was universal approval of.

    1. You are missing the universality of the principles behind the Second Amendment. This is what Bill Whittle was pointing out. It does not matter when this amendment was written or what type of weapons we had at the time. There is no need to discuss a militia in an argument about the right to keep and bear arms.

      The right was always with the people. The Second Amendment is there to make sure the government does not violate this right.

    2. Yup! Book reading parallel drives the point home for even the slow-on-the-uptake… The RIGHT exists already, the Amendment make sure it’s Not infringed upon.

      Jim
      At-A-Loss-In-Desert-Hot-Springs CA 922HOT

  3. As a veteran of more recent conflicts, I can attest to the problems in countries where the people have no right to arms. Not just 3 rd world countries either, look at Great Brittain. The police do not have to identify themselves and do not have to have a warrant to enter your house and take what they want. One of the reasons for this amendment was to clarify that the United States of American was free from the whimsical regulation of the government. People in GB are assumed guilty and must demonstrate their innocence even today. The Hondurans must learn new regulations each time a new president comes in because the president has the right to change any and all laws as he sees fit.
    I have been around guns since I was six, my grandfather and father taught me to treat them like any other tool, keep it clean and use it properly and only for what it was intended. I do just as I was taught and I taught my children the same things.
    In conclusion, I fought for the liberties of others, I may die fighting for my rights and freedoms, but I will kill to keep them. No I am not a fanatic threatening everyone, I am a parent and grandparent protecting my lineage from tyranny.

  4. Do the Gun Control Act, the NFA, and any other law regulating firearms violate the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution? Absolutely they do. The 2nd amendment says “shall not be infringed.” It does not say “kinda sorta shall not be infringed” when the government deems it inconvenient. Any regulation is an infringement – plain and simple.

    Now as to felons and criminals… The Constitution does deal with that in the 14th amendment which authorizes felony disenfranchisement.

    As to BCN weapons…The 2nd amendment says the “right to keep and bear arms” so by definition what is covered under the 2nd amendment is only arms that can be carried by a person. In other words, small arms, man-portable. Not some truck mounted missile launched delivery system which BCN systems are. Chemicals and biological agents are not “armaments” so they also do not qualify as protected.

    1. Felon disenfranchisement is a myth. The 14th amendment states for any crime, not only for felonies. This is only to vote, BTW. You also should read history… George Washington owned large numbers of cannon, muskets, shot, and massive amounts of powder. What he owned and men that were under his employ formed the core of the Continental army.

  5. It was a pleasure to read an analysis from an expert in the English language. Today, you can’t read a newspaper or magazine article without encountering misspelled words or mistakes in grammar. I am not capable of creating an analysis of the second amendment but I did enjoy reading it. It appears to be a simple article, but after reading, I don’ think even a liberal could misunderstand it. They could still argue about the article, as they will, but not honestly dispute what it says.

  6. When will people in this country learn, that once we lose the 2nd amendment, so go all of the other amendment’s we have. The 2ND amendment is the ONLY reason we have any other amendment’s ! Once it falls, so goes the rest of our amendment’s !!!

  7. I believe that second amendment is to be truly valued and held tighly. The government now and days is trying to take it away piece by piece by limiting a magazine count, or banning USA citizens from owning a fully automatic weapon 1986 and up.

    Now do you need a full auto weapon at home?….Probably not,
    HOWEVER, it is a USA CITIZENS RIGHT to own one, as the government has the right to a weapon, so should the people.

    Some will say, more crime would happen, but stricter gun laws ONLY affect the LAW ABIDING citizens, not the criminals who illegally obtain weapons anyway, or could easily just rig a full auto sear, or bump fire.

    You can also cut back on all knife related crimes but banning knifes, and get rid of vehicular homicide by banning cars, or making all speed limits 15 MPH or under.

    We all should have the same rights and privileges the government does. Guns do not kill people, people do. Just like the “the car didnt drive drunk and the spoon didnt make you fat”.

    As the video states, the people make up a militia, so we should have the right to own weapons.

    Following history, As the government takes away the guns from its people, its a bad sign that something bad is about to happen, as the country weakens the citizens defense from it.

    As I recall, part of the reason Japan did not invade the USA during WW2 was because of a country that had citizens with guns.

  8. Yes by all means lets keep giving up a little at a time. Regulate it all and we’ll just live with whatever they leave us. Oh wait, that’s where we are now.

  9. Sorry I have to disagree with you pretty strongly on this.

    Just Because we have veered from the Constitution does NOT mean that it is right or good that we’ve done so.

    What you described is basically the “Living Constitution” approach pushed so strongly in the Progressive movement started 100 + years ago. And virtually every example of regulation and alteration you have mentioned has resulted in people’s freedoms being infringed and at times extinguished.

    The Founders and the Founding documents as written were meant to stop that kind of behavior and Protect Individuals and their liberty from over reaching and big government authoritarianism. Those freedoms and those principles where not meant to be Time limited. They were written as Universal Truths and Rights with a Limited government authority designed to Protect them. Not take them back little by little over time as the Whim of future Government chose to do or not.

    Finally, you conflate Supreme Court decisions with the Founders as in the Dred Scott case. Which is intellectually lazy at best and dishonest in its attempt to join Interpreters with the authors of our Founding Documents. The Supreme Court was never meant to have the Power it has assumed for itself. Certainly the Founders never meant for it to be in the business of Re-writing the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

  10. The 2nd Amend., like all the others requires interpretation, since it was written by humans. We can make pretty educated guesses what the drafters meant, but we can’t really know what all those who supported and voted for it meant.

    Even if could, why would we want to be straightjacketed by what someone thought 240 years ago? We’re perfectly fine with ignoring and moving on from those same authors belief in a 3/5rds person, or non-person, if they have lady parts.

    The press is regulated, speech is regulated. Warrants for searches are waived sometimes, speedy trial means 1+ years sometimes — every Amendment is modified to work in real life, not just on paper. What we should be concerned about are unreasonable restrictions, not how many Founding Fathers could dance on the head of a pin.

    1. Frequently we hear people use the term “Reasonable Restrictions” whenbe talking about the second ammendment. Frankly these arguments overlook the actual purpose of the ammendment. Forget all the crap about intrepreting the language and just look to the functional purpose of the ammendment. The second ammendment is NOT about hunting, or sport shooting. In large measure it is not about self defense either. It is actually about putting the power to overthrow the government in the hads of the people shoud the need ever arise. You have to remember these were people who had just finished fighting to cast off a government and so they wanted to be certain that they had the ability to do it again if they had to. SO the fact is that there are no “reasponable Restrictions” other than the people must be supplied with the same weapons they might need to prevail in battle against a tyantical government bent on suppressing them. With that as the purpose the only “reasonable restriction” on what the people may possess is that it should be limited to only those weapons routinly used by the government or military fporces that the people might have to face in a fight to cast off a government that has grown out of control. Any other view is a simple distortion of the facts and ignores the actual purpose of the ammendment.

      And to those who insist that we overlook other provision of the Constitution and should do the same where arms are concerned; well they are simply wrong. Every provision in the original document that today appears to be ignored; has been subsequently ammended to reflect current practice. Women vote, blacks were freed, intoxicants can be bought and so on because there is an ammendment correcting the Constititution or one of the ammendments. But the first TEN ammendments have never been ammended and for very good reason. Most improtant among them is the second which protects all of the others. If you don’t think so just go to China or North Korea and speak your mind in public. when the police come for you, just try to find a means to protect yourself; or get a fair trial; or a speedy trial; or a lawyer; or avoid improper search; or speak out in your own defense, If you dont think we need the second ammendment please feel free to move to a country where they don’t have one; but leave mine alone.

    2. ” every Amendment is modified to work in real life”,,,perhaps, but the 2nd Amendment is the ONLY Amendment that has the admonition to the Government, “shall not be infringed.”

    3. Sorry I have to disagree with you pretty strongly on this.

      Just Because we have veered from the Constitution does NOT mean that it is right or good that we’ve done so.

      What you described is basically the “Living Constitution” approach pushed so strongly in the Progressive movement started 100 + years ago. And virtually every example of regulation and alteration you have mentioned has resulted in people’s freedoms being infringed and at times extinguished.

      The Founders and the Founding documents as written were meant to stop that kind of behavior and Protect Individuals and their liberty from over reaching and big government authoritarianism. Those freedoms and those principles where not meant to be Time limited. They were written as Universal Truths and Rights with a Limited government authority designed to Protect them. Not take them back little by little over time as the Whim of future Government chose to do or not.

      Finally, you conflate Supreme Court decisions with the Founders as in the Dred Scott case. Which is intellectually lazy at best and dishonest in its attempt to join Interpreters with the authors of our Founding Documents. The Supreme Court was never meant to have the Power it has assumed for itself. Certainly the Founders never meant for it to be in the business of Re-writing the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    4. WOW… you are a first class leftard. Impressive how brainless an opinion can get. Did you even watch the video? Are you some sort of expert in the English language??? I think both answers are NO.

    5. “belief in a 3/5rds person” It wasn’t 3/5ths of a person, it was 3/5ths of one vote. Had this not been done, the south would have had far too much representation, hence power, in the House. This was remedied over time as the country stabilized after the civil war. Read your history.

    6. Hmmm… Interpretation. Did you actually watch the above video or did your browser block it? What could possibly have been so unclear to you? The English language? I’ve never seen a more concise, clear INTERPRETATION IN MY LIFE OF ANYTHING GOVERNMENTAL!!!

      GAL

      Jim

  11. The 2nd Amendment was not put in place to protect guns, they already had guns and the Natural Rights to defend themselves before the first redcoat fell.
    The reason, cut through the bullcrap, was that already the Central government and even that of the States was becoming in some cases more oppressive than Britain had been, so much so that open rebellion was a fact in Pennsylvania and minor skirmishes elsewhere.
    No the only reason for the 2nd to be written was to warn any of the states andnstates to warn the central government not to outgrow their britches.
    That meant that any attempt to intrude upon any Rights would bring out the militia, but of course yhey were too busy slaughtering infiansnand attacking Canada trying to make it part of US.
    The 2nd indeed means nothing, for we are and have been living under what until recently was a benevolent Martial law.
    Now the military is indeed ready along with our Homeland Security to lower the hammrrs you got pacifiersbtrying to vongude the isues by talking trash as there is no way to regain the old Constitutional Republic, it is dead and hone leavingbyou whiners crying that the 2nd gives you the right to shoot boogymen and criminals, and if in south , yankees, athiest, gays, hippies liberals and Mexicans looking for work.
    There is no USA to defend from foreign invaders,we invade and remove the ass kissers from their country to US so we can keep invading every weak nation on earth.
    Raise the glag to hide the 2nds nurial urn.

  12. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed means that every law that restricts a natural born and legal citizen of the U.S. of A. That is a law abiding member of our socity is illegal and unjust and needs to be removed from the books. When we fought the british for freedom all soldiers on both sides had muskets right? So if a soldier in today’s military is armed with an M-16 or varient of should we not have at least a simular type of option? Remember the first step to total control over a people is to disarm them.

  13. Dang! Now I want my own machine gun! A working tank! A howitzer (it would fit in my house, no problem). A surface to air missle launcher (with rockets). Bazooka, as those ISIS types might come in armored vehicles. Are nukes considered arms? Then I want one of my own, goddammit. Per the second amendment there should be no limits placed on the right to bear any and all arms. I am hoping someday to be able to open carry my personal grenade launcher. Are we not men?

    1. One of your examples is not like the others, Nick. Tanks, howitzers, SAMs, bazookas, nukes, RPGs, etc., are military weapons of overwhelming force, not personal weapons like an auto-loading firearm. The Framers obviously didn’t have cannon in mind when writing the Bill of Rights, which would be comparable to your overwrought examples. A machine-gun, on the other hand, arguably is among the personal firearms comprehended in their definition of RKBA ordnance.

  14. Liberals often carry guns, and they often carry them illegally. here have been multiple cases of known anti-gun personalities being arrested with guns on school property, going through the security line at the airport, or even shooting at a trespasser who was not presenting a threat. Pelosi and Feinstein both had CCW’s at one time. I think Feinstein dropped hers because it made her look bad. Of course, they also have armed security details.

    1. The criminals don’t just carry guns–they use them, You and I will carry for years and will not need to use one, But just let one licensed CHL guy use his gun correctly, or God forbid make and error. Then the law and media will crucify you immediately. It is risky business even for law abiding folks.We are probably the last generation to be allowed to own and use guns at all. Makes me glad to be 72.

    2. Agreed, dan. In all the years I’ve legally carried a gun domestically, I’ve never pulled it on anyone or fired a shot in anger. Carrying a gun doesn’t replace situational awareness and good judgement.

      However, the Liberals would have everyone believe that anyone who carries a gun is automatically to be considered a raging maniac who might suddenly go off and start shooting people, unless of course, it is one of them who is carrying it, because they are all so much smarter than the rest of us Neanderthals.

  15. This is my point on the 2nd Amendment ,it is clear . If Liberal Communist Democrats don’t like guns ,don’t buy them . But don’t infringe on my right to own them . This is my right to Bear Arms .PERIOD ! Our Founding Fathers made sure the 2nd Amendment was #2 under our Bill of Rights . To make sure the people would always have guns to protect ourselves from foreign evasion and to protect the people from Dictators within our Government .

  16. The Second Amendment, There are 49 reasons which explain it.

    If, as some may argue, that the Second Amendment’s “militia” meaning, is that every person has a right to keep and bear arms, the only way to describe one’s right as a private individual, is not as a “militia” but as a “person” (“The individual personality of a human being: self.”). “Person” or “persons“” is mentioned in the Constitution 49 times, to explicitly describe, clarify and mandate a Constitutional legal standing as to a “person”, his or her Constitutional rights.

    Whereas in the Second Amendment, reference to “person” is not to be found. Was there are reason? The obvious question arises, why did the Framers use the noun “person/s” as liberally as they did throughout the Constitution 49 times and not apply this understanding to explicitly convey same legal standard in defining an individual’s right to bear arms as a “person”?

    Merriam Webster “militia”, “a body of citizens organized for military service : a whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service.

    Article 2, Section 2 “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into actual Service of the United States;…”

    In the whole of the U.S. Constitution, “militia” is mentioned 5 times. In these references there is no mention of person or persons. One reference to “people“ in the Second Amendment. People, meaning not a person but persons, in describing a “militia”. “People” is mentioned a total 9 times.

    It’s not enough to just say that “person(s)” is mentioned in the United States Constitution 49 times. But to see it for yourself, and the realization was for the concern envisioned by the Framers that every “person” be secure in these rights explicitly spelled out, referenced and understood how these rights were to be applied to that “person”.
     
    “..No Person shall be a Representative..”
    “..whole Number of free Persons,..”
    “..three fifths of all other Persons…”
    “..No person shall be a Senator…”
    “..And no Person shall be convicted…”
    “..no Person holding any Office…”
    “..Names of the Persons voting for…”
    “…of such Persons as any of the States…”
    “…not exceeding ten dollars for each Person…”
    “…And no Person holding any…”
    “…or Person holding an Office of Trust o…“
    “…and vote by Ballot for two persons,…”
    “…List of all the Persons voted for,…”
    “…The Person having the greatest Number of Votes…”
    “…and if no Person have a Majority,…”
    “…the Person having the greatest Number…”
    “…No person except a natural born Citizen,…”
    “…Any Person be eligible to that ….”
    “…No Person shall be convicted of …”
    “…except during the Life of the Person attainted….”.
    “…A Person charged in any State…”
    “…No Person held to Service…”
    “…The right of the people to be secure in their persons,…”
    “…and the persons or things to be seized….”
    “..No person shall be held to answer…”
    “..nor shall any person be subject for the same offense….”
    “…they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President,…”
    “…the person voted for as Vice-President,…”
    “…all persons voted for as President,….”
    “…all persons voted for as Vice-President…”
    “…The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, …”
    “…and if no person have such majority,…”
    “..the persons having the highest numbers …”
    “… The person having the greatest number of votes…”
    “..and if no person have a majority,…”
    “…But no person constitutionally ineligible…”
    “…All persons born or naturalized …”
    “…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property,…”
    “…nor deny to any person within …”
    “…number of persons in each State,….”
    “…No person shall be a Senator or …”
    “..and such person shall act accordingly….”
    “…of the death of any of the persons from…”
    “…death of any of the persons from…”
    “…No person shall be elected to the office…”
    “…and no person who has held the office of President,…”
    “..to which some other person was elected…”
    “…shall not apply to any person holding the office…”
    “..prevent any person who may be holding…”

    Waltq

  17. THE SECOND AMENDMEND MEANS NOTHING. The right to protect yourself, family, property and way of life is our right as human animals just as every other living animal has the right to protect themselves, family, property and way of life. It is no different than the right to life. ANY interference with that right should not be tolerated and the government has no business regulating it.

    1. Another way of stating this is that Glorious as The Constitution and subsequent Bill of Rights are, neither are needed to allow for Americans (or any Human) to defend life and liberty…Of course, this is precisely because these are “God Given” divine rights rendering even the aforementioned ingenious documents as irrelevent…Such is not meant in any way to detract from the indispensable nature of our beloved Founding Fathers but only to reiterate what they themselves believed…

  18. The liberals have already won the first part of this,

    as most gun owners are already willing to give up the

    right to own some type of guns.

    Our Constitution grants the means to change it

    AMENDMENT

    thus IT MEANS WHAT IT SAYS

    not some TYRANT’S INTERPRETATION

  19. Leftists – they are not liberals, not really – will twist the language into knots for their own political ends. The Second Amendment was written in common English and there is no debate about what the words mean. Taking away the whole notion of the scary firearms for a moment, consider the following:

    A well-educated electorate being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and read books shall not be infringed.

    Only a leftist thoroughly indoctrinated into the cult of Orwellian Newspeak could twist these words to believe that the statement above means that only well-educated people of voting age should have the right to read. 🙂

  20. I am sorry, but I disagree… I don’t actually think that “even a progressive” liberal could understand these concepts.

    1. Some leftists own and carry guns, believing they have special rights they would deny others. But most believe only government can be trusted with the use of force – as long as they control government.

    2. @ Michael

      Did you have a point? If so, you missed your mark. Just because a lib owns a gun in no way indicates they support, defend, or even understand the Second Amendment which solidifies that right.

      By your warped frame of thinking that would indicate you must also conclude the opposite is also true – meaning anyone that doesn’t own a gun proves that person must not support their Second Amendment right to bear arms. When the reality may instead be their lack of ownership is actually due to age limit or limited finances, yet they could still totally support the right to bear arms.

      I made more of an accurate point with my statement than you did with yours given it is a well-known fact the anti-gun movement is owned by the progressive liberal element in our Country. Simply put, gun ownership does not validate your statement.

    3. To your point, G-Man, El Rushbo, who can afford to fund his own army, unreservedly supports the Bill of Rights, including the 2nd Amendment, yet claims to own no personal firearms. The use and ownership of firearms is not a reliable indicator of support.

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